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Daily summaries from China -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Daily summaries from China

Friday, November 20, 2009

Build day 5: Sun finally greets China build
The last day of the 2009 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Qionglai City in China's southwestern Sichuan province heralded a rare sight: the sun. The phenomenon had a usually reserved Habitat for Humanity China staff member serenading the whole bus with a Sichuan folk song "The Sun Is Out."

As the rays spread warmth over the build site, volunteers peeled off their down jackets to mere jumpers. Some brave souls even worked in their t-shirts. The sun made up for the past four days of shuddering cold and helped teams make progress on the walls for the housing unit they are building.

After the usual morning briefing, the volunteers gamely obliged with a group photo after donning work gloves painted creatively by children in a Hong Kong event to raise funds for survivors of the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. Then it was "and off to work we go," as one team happily sang.

Although the volunteers did not complete building the walls to the roof beam as planned, they were no less satisfied. Most arrived as strangers to one another and would leave as fast friends.

The volunteers knew that they were leaving the construction in very good hands. "We got attached to the masons. They were so patient with us and explained things over and over again," said Jan Lee, a first-time Carter Work Project volunteer.

Hence, it was with mixed feelings that volunteers put away their tools, thanked the masons and signed their names on the walls they built. Crew leader Olivia Wong said: "We cleaned up everything. The only things we left behind are the walls we built and the love."

Habitat for Humanity International chief executive officer Jonathan Reckford said during his visit to Qionglai Thursday, "As we build visible walls up, we can break down invisible barriers between us."

The work of more than 170 volunteers in Qionglai City was a beginning.
–Hiew Peng Wong


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Build day 4: The Carters visit China
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were greeted with loud cheers when they walked into the tent where volunteers for the Sichuan build were finishing their lunch.

After an introduction by Liu Xingjun, the mayor of Qionglai City in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, President Carter went onstage, and an excited volunteer immediately shouted his name.

President Carter told the group he first visited China before most of the volunteers were born. He also said he shared a birthday with the People's Republic of China—October 1—and highlighted the special friendship that the United States has with China, a point a local government official affirmed. Liu Peizhi, chairman of the consultative political conference and president of Qionglai City, quoted the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping as saying that President Carter is destined to be a friend of China.

More than a dozen staff members from the local government office took part in the build in the afternoon.

To the delight of volunteers, President and Mrs. Carter shook many hands before and after lunch.
When crew leader Jennifer Rizk felt someone else’s hand pushing around her side, she thrust it forward, giving teammate Gail Lee a moment to shake the president’s hand—a moment she will always remember. The president also posed for group photographs with beaming volunteers.

Buoyed by their encounter with Habitat's most recognizable volunteer, the teams quickly resumed work to make the most of the day. Many would no doubt remember the visit and parting words of a man in his 26th year as a Habitat volunteer, encouraging them to participate in Habitat builds for many years to come.
―Hiew Peng Wong


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Build day 3: Progress and reward in wintry weather
It is official: Winter has descended upon Qionglai city in China's southwestern Sichuan province. Looking at the rate of development and the smiles on volunteers’ faces on the third day of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2009, one may be excused for thinking that the volunteers have become immune to the cold.

Volunteer Janice Lee's smile nearly lit up the overcast sky when a local mason commended the wall she and her fellow volunteer built. Two giggling Korean volunteers counted to three in their native language before pushing a brick-laden wheelbarrow up a wooden ramp leading to another unit under construction. In one corner of the build site, Hong Kong actors Daniel Wu, Andrew Lin and Ken Wong continued steadfast with bricklaying. While Wu laid bricks for a wall, model and veejay Lisa S. scraped off excess cement on the outside of the wall.

With two days of building remaining for this year’s Carter Work Project, great progress—and great joy—was evident in Qionglai, despite the cold.
—Hiew Peng Wong


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Build day 2: Wise volunteers wear warmer gear
The volunteers at the Qionglai City build site were feeling cheerful on the second day of work. With thick clothing to weather the cold, bright smiles decorated faces, and animated chatter wafted through the crisp wintry air.

Hong Kong-based celebrity couple Daniel Wu and Lisa Selesner came to lay brick at the site alongside volunteers and partner families and took time to sign hard hats for fans. Wu is a California-born movie star, and Lisa S. is a vee-jay and international model.

Steady progress was made on the walls as volunteers became more familiar with the work, their teammates and the skilled masons. With 25 walls to be built, they will have lots of opportunity to continue honing their skills.
—Hiew Peng Wong


Monday, November 16, 2009

Day one: Volunteers facedown chilly weather
On the first day, some 170 volunteers arrived at the build site to work on 16 housing units spread over three apartments in Qionglai city. Many were not prepared for the bone-chilling cold, and before the morning briefing, they clustered around the lamppost-like heaters inside the food tent.

For the majority of volunteers with little building experience, there were some setbacks. A few bricks had to be re-laid, but volunteers’ commitment was unwavering.

At the end of the first day, volunteers left for their hotels remembering the words of Hosea Lai, Habitat for Humanity's chief representative in Sichuan: "It is the families we build for who count."
—Hiew Peng Wong